Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Pulp Sci Fi Figures

    Posted By on June 26, 2016

    Disdain Yeoman from Wargames Supply Dump

    Disidian Yeoman from Wargames Supply Dump

    I haven’t had a lot of painting time this past week, but last weekend I started on a handful of pulp science fiction figures from Wargames Supply Dump.  Many of the Dirk Garrison figure seem very inspired by the Flash Gordon comic strips.  These Disidian Yeomen resemble the warriors under Prince Barin of Arboria.

    Close up of Disidian Warriors

    Close up of Disidian Warriors

    Really neat retro science fiction robot

    Really neat retro science fiction robot

    My daughter painted these robots for me while she was home for a few weeks for Summer break.  Below are her robots facing two of Disdain yeomen.

    An epic struggle of good versus evil

    An epic struggle of good versus evil

    In addition to the Disidians, I also painted a unit of Aquillians.

    Partial Unit of Aquillian Marines

    Partial Unit of Aquillian Marines

    Partial unit of Aquillian Marines

    Partial unit of Aquillian Marines

    The Web site shows them as green, but I thought that was too cliche, so I painted them in orange.  Who says the water on the Aquillian home world isn’t orange.

    No War Toys or War Movies?

    Posted By on June 22, 2016

    A few months ago, I saw a post on one of the on-line blogs in which the author had taken a dollar store armored vehicle, applied a few bits, and made it a science fiction armored vehicle.  The genius is that many of the armored vehicles that came in packs of plastic army men were historically inaccurate and generally out of scale but had the right elements to easily convert them for science fiction game involving 28mm figures.  Since reading that article, whenever I am in Target, Walmart, Five Below, the PX, The Dollar Tree, Dollar General, or other stores with a toy department, I make a quick trip down the aisle looking for a suitable “conversion fodder.”  I have been unsuccessful.

    I had several sets of this, purchased at K-Mart, and enjoyed many, many hours of battle in my basement.

    That led to my observation that even after ten years of war in the Middle East, kids must be really uninterested in military toys or military history.  There is nothing on the shelves. There are plenty of Minecraft, Star Wars, Marvel superhero, and even Scooby Doo toys, but almost no “army” toys.  Recently I found a tub of plastic toy soldiers at a Virginia Walmart, but that has been the extent.  Just ten years ago I and my buddies were hitting every Walmart we passed for the 21st Century Toys line of 1:50 and 1:144 WWII vehicle sand airplanes to repurpose them for wargaming.  Today, there is precious little on the shelves.

    I devoted a lot of hours to coming up with more and more intricate schemes to destroy this impregnable Nazi stronghold.

    When I was a kid, you became very popular when you brought home the newest G.I. Joe accessory (or one with life-like hair!).  Lots of kids came to my house to play with my Guns of Navaronne play set, Anzio Beach back 1:72 set, Blue and Gray Marx play set, etc.  What I find ironic is that while video games are becoming more violent (and graphically so), kids don’t seem to play with toy soldiers.  They play with toy guns in the form of Nerf guns and their clones, but those always have a science fiction vibe to them, not current or historical military theming.

    Paulette Goddard gives me impure thoughts!

    A man's man!

    William Boyd as Happalong Cassidy -- the greatest role model of his generation.

    I find it interesting that when we were kids we read Sergeant Rock, watched John Wayne, and played with toy soldiers, but today kids watch fantasy, science fiction, and super hero movies and play video games.  There seems to be little love or interest in history or the military.  I think that those comic books and old movies were important forms of education.  Yes, education.  Watch Sand of Iwo Jima, Objective Burma, or Patton with you kids and see what I mean.  Will your kid understand Forrest Tucker saving John Wayne from being picked up by the shore police even though he can’t stand Stryker?  Will they understand shared sacrifice and perseverance through adversity as presented by Errol Flynn.  How about the ethos of not leaving a wounded buddy behind?  Thinking back, I think a lot of my world view and concept of right and wrong was formed by John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart (a real life hero), Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (another real life hero), David Niven in The Immortal Battalion (where the important lesson was not letting down your team and your heritage), Randolph Scott, and Gary Cooper — and not just in their war movies.  Hoppalong Cassidy was a terrific role model!!  Even when Randolph Scott played a bad buy opposite Errol Flynn, he had a sense of integrity missing in today’s media.  Those movies taught lessons about camaraderie, duty, honor, and country that you don’t see in Captain America XII or Iron Man XXXIV.   In movies like Chisum, John Wayne and the others employed violence in a controlled way and only as a last resort.  Contrast that with Fast and Furious MCMVII in which the objective is to sleep with prostitutes and steal cars.

    Errol Flynn leading his men and persevering through adversity

    How do kids learn positive lessons about duty, honor, country, comradeship, perseverance through adversity, teamwork, the appropriate use of force, and the importance of something greater than oneself?  And how do they role play those lessons without toy soldiers or plastic cowboys?

    The term “cowboy” is today used pejoratively by those who wish to vilify, give away, or destroy all that made this country great.   Here is what “cowboy” means to me.  Many of my childhood heroes portrayed this kind of cowboy.  This may not be an accurate reflection of every cowboy who worked a trail herd, but this is how men like John Wayne depicted them.  This nation could use a lot more cowboys.

    Didn’t Get Much Hobby Work Done this Week

    Posted By on June 19, 2016

    John Wayne from Northstar and two pinups

    John Wayne from Northstar and two pinups

    The beginning of the week I was in Costa Rica on a family vacation, so I didn’t do much in the way of hobby stuff.  On Saturday, I did manage to work on a few odds and ends type figures while the kids were out with their buddies.  In short bursts I can paint the odd figure, but I like to work on painting units when I know I have a couple of hours of uninterrupted time.

    Two creatures from Wargames Supply Dump

    Two creatures from Wargames Supply Dump

    My daughter actually painted these figures right before we left on vacation.  The guy on the left we dubbed “the banana man.”  These are both from Wargames Supply Dump in their Dirk Garrison range.  For someone who doesn’t like to paint figures, but likes to paint terrain, I think she did a really nice job on these.

    Jodie, the Belt Fed Girl, from Belt Fed Gaming

    Jodie, the Belt Fed Girl, from Belt Fed Gaming

    I had seen this figure advertised, but at 2.50 GBP it was too expensive to order from the UK.  When I was at Partizan, I picked it up.  Most of the figures in this range are ridiculous, but I like this one and the one below, because they look like WWII nose art.  I’m not sure what I will do with them, but they were sort of fun to paint.  I thought I might put them in my next Captain America game where the Cap is doing a USO tour when the fighting breaks out.

    "Amelia Erhart" from Belt Fed Gaming

    "Amelia Erhart" from Belt Fed Gaming

    A couple of years ago, I saw this figure of John Wayne in a magazine or Web page.  It is a limited edition release from Northstar.  I had been coveting the figure.  My recent attendance at Partizan gave me a chance to pick one up.  Actually, I got two for myself and one for a buddy.  I think they did a very good job of making it look like John Wayne, especially on a 28mm figure.  I am very happy with the way he turned out.

    John Wayne as Sgt. Stryker from "The Sands of Iwo Jima"

    John Wayne as Sgt. Stryker from "The Sands of Iwo Jima"

    My daughter painted these robots too.  They are also from the Dirk Garrison range.  I think they would have been nicer with a little more color, but they turned out okay.

    Two robots from Wargame Supply Dump

    Two robots from Wargame Supply Dump

    At Nashcon, Don or Greg found this figure in a bin of figures someone was selling.  I thought she would look good as a fighter to go along with my sigilist in our Frostgrave campaign.  She had a pointing thing on the front of her habit, but after I filed that off, I think she matches the sigilist well.

    Unknown female warrior to be a fighter for my Frostgrave sigilist

    Unknown female warrior to be a fighter for my Frostgrave sigilist

    So… not much accomplished this week.  I have some Wargames Supply Dump figures partially completed on the gaming table.  They are supposed to be reminiscent of warriors from Arboria in the Flash Gordon comics.  I’ll post some pictures when they are done.

    Costa Rica, 13-14 June, 2016

    Posted By on June 15, 2016

    The entrance the Curi Cancha, a privately owned nature preserve in Monte Verde

    The entrance the Curi Cancha, a privately owned nature preserve in Monte Verde

    On Monday morning (13th) we woke, packed, and had our final breakfast at Cabinas Capulin, in Monte Verde.  Then Orlando picked us up and took us to the Curi Cancha nature preserve.  This is one of many privately owned preserves in Costa Rica.  We went looking for wildlife — and found some.

    Our final breakfast in Cabinas Capulin, Monte Verde

    Our final breakfast in Cabinas Capulin, Monte Verde

    Are those folks professional models? Wow! What a swell looking outfit!

    Are those folks professional models? Wow! What a swell looking outfit!

    We took this picture in front of a giant ficus tree.  We had ficus in our yard when we lived in Florida, but I never guessed they could get this big.

    I took this picture of the “bell bird” with my phone through Orlando’s spotting scope.

    This is a picture of the triple waddle something-or-other.  That is the technical name for this species of bird.  Even with the “long lens” on my camera, I couldn’t get this close, so I used my phone to take the picture through Orlando’s scope.

    Hummingbirds at the Curi Cancha Reserve

    Hummingbirds at the Curi Cancha Reserve

    There was a big tree with a dozen hummingbird feeders hanging under it in an open field.  With the “long lens” I was able to get extremely closeup shots of the birds.

    Sam being attacked by a massive spider

    Sam being attacked by a massive spider

    At the continental divide within the Curi Cancha Reserve

    At the continental divide within the Curi Cancha Reserve

    Curi Cancha is one of the places you can see the continental divide in Costa Rica.  On the other side of that cut in the mountains is the Caribbean (Atlantic).  The valley running from left to right in front of us flows into the Pacific.

    After a couple of hours at Curi Cancha, we got into the Turismo Van and headed down toward the Pacific Ocean.  The first third of the trip was over unimproved roads through the mountains.  Eventually we hit the Pan American highway, and the going became easier.

    This shot gives you a sense of the roads from Monteverde to Quepos.  Along the way we met this group of cowboys moving some of their herd from one field to another.

    This shot gives you a sense of the roads from Monteverde to Quepos. Along the way we met this group of cowboys moving some of their herd from one field to another.

    Crocodiles in their natural habitat

    Crocodiles in their natural habitat

    On our way between Monte Verde and Quepos (Manuel Antonio National Park), we stopped at a bridge over the Tarcoles River where we saw a bunch of crocodiles.

    We counted 33 crocodiles in this area

    We counted 33 crocodiles in this area

     Having arrived near the Manuel Antonio National Park, we checked into our hotel, took a quick look at the beach, and found some place for dinner.  As Tom can legally drink in Costa Rica, we ordered a pitcher of sangria to share.  I think he liked it.  The next morning we had breakfast early and then walked to the entrance to the national park.  Along the way we were accosted by a number of guys offering tour guide services.  Apparently this is something of a scam.  We were warned ahead of time that the private, non-licensed guides are the source of a number of complaints.  At one point, an employee of the National Park latched onto us and walked us to the park entrance.  Once we were with him, the other folks stopped trying to sell us their services.

    The entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park

    The entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park

    We decided to go into the park without a guide, which turned out to be a pretty good idea.  We moved about at our own pace.  Often we would see three of four groups with guides stopped along a trail looking at something, and we would stop and take pictures ourselves.  The value of the guide is that you are supposed to see more wildlife with one than without one.  I think we did okay on our own.

    A white-faced monkey on one of the walking trails

    A white-faced monkey on one of the walking trails. We got within a foot of this guy as we walked past him.

    The beach within Manuel Antonio National Park

    The beach within Manuel Antonio National Park

    Someone who had visited Costa Rica told me that the beaches weren’t very nice, but I think they were terrific.  The sand is not quite as sugary white as Panama City, Florida, but it was good, clean sand.  The water was a very comfortable temperature.  There were few rocks or shells, so walking barefoot was easy.  Look at the color of the water!

    The life of a white-faced monkey is a hard one.

    The life of a white-faced monkey is a hard one.

    Is this a scene in "From Here to Eternity?!" This handsome couple should be in movies!

    Is this a scene in "From Here to Eternity?!" This handsome couple should be in movies!

    An observation point overlooking the Pacific from within Manuel Antonio National Park

    An observation point overlooking the Pacific from within Manuel Antonio National Park

    A low-hanging sloth near the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park

    A low-hanging sloth near the beach in Manuel Antonio National Park

    Sloths have got to be the ugliest mammals on the planet.  To me they look like the Morelocks in 1960′s version of The Time Machine.  They move so slowly that their fur is full of mold, parasites, and insects.

    This raccoon-looking thing seemed unimpressed by a group of humans walking along this path.

    This raccoon-looking thing seemed unimpressed by a group of humans walking along this path.

    I asked Orlando who Manuel Antonio was.  I figured he might have been a president of Costa Rica, famous explorer, or some other notable figure.  Apparently, a woman didn’t make it to the hospital and gave birth on the beach.  The locals began to refer to the area as “the beach where Manuel Antonio was born” or “Manuel Antonio’s beach.”  When the park was created in this area, they kept the name, Manuel Antonio National Park.

    A land crab

    A land crab

    After a couple of hours at Manuel Antonio we went back to our hotel, locked up the camera and other valuables, and went to spend some time on the beach behind our hotel until the clouds darkened and threatened rain.  The water was a very comfortable temperature.  Tom, Sam, and I played in the breaking waves for an hour or so, and then we relaxed on towels for a while.  Finally we went in to shower up and get ready for dinner.  By the time we got on the bus to take us from our hotel up the hill to the restaurant area, it was raining.

    El Avion restaurant

    El Avion restaurant

    For our last dinner in Costa Rica we ate at the El Avion restaurant.  The restaurant’s bar is inside this US cargo plane that was involved in the Iran-Contra incident and was eventually shot down in Honduras or Nicaragua.  After several years it was bought by the folks who own this restaurant.  The food was good, but it wasn’t the best meal we’ve eaten in Costa Rica.  As with most of the restaurants in Costa Rica, there were no windows, just open walls with a beautiful view of the ocean.  It would have been a great place to view the sunset if it hadn’t been cloudy and raining.

    We then returned to our hotel room for snacks while watching a movie on my computer.  We all hit the sack very early, because the next day, our travel-home day, was to start very early in the morning.

    Costa Rica, 12 June 2016

    Posted By on June 13, 2016

    Cabin Number Three at Cabinas Capulin, Monte Verde, Costa Rica

    Cabin Number Three at Cabinas Capulin, Monte Verde, Costa Rica

    On this day, we were on our own in Monte Verde without our guide, Orlando.  We began with another terrific breakfast, provided in the reception area of Cabinas Capulin before setting out for the Don Juan coffee and cacao tour.  The Don Juan tour was billed as “three tours in one:” coffee, sugar cane, and cacao.  The sugar cane portion seemed like an afterthought, and the coffee portion was good, but for me the highlight was the cacao portion.

    Our guide explaining how coffee beans are germinated and grown for two years before planting outdoors

    Our guide explaining how coffee beans are germinated and grown for two years before planting outdoors

    Having been on this tour, it is amazing to me that people ever figured out how to turn coffee beans into food.  The plant germinates in a green house for two or three years before being planted in the ground.  The plant is only good for 25 -30 years.  This coffee plantation pulls out the plant at 25 years and plants a new seedling.  Of those 25 years, they only get 15 harvests.  The beans must be hand picked, because the beans ripen at different rates.  Our guide said that the pickers might visit the same plant 15-20 times during the six-week harvest season.  Then the bean goes through a six or seven step process in which the various layers are removed to reveal what we know as the coffee bean, which is then roasted.  The roasting time determines the flavor of the coffee.  Our guide asserted that light roast provides the best, non-bitter, non-burnt taste.  She also said that longer roasting times, such as “dark roast,” does little to make the coffee stronger, despite popular misconception, while giving the coffee more of a bitter taste.  Except for Sam, none of us are coffee drinkers, so we found this presentation and tour interesting, but not overly so.

    The flower on a coffee plant that eventually turns into a bean

    The flower on a coffee plant that eventually turns into a bean

    Sam walking through a coffee field. Note the branch full of unripe beans in the foreground.

    Sam walking through a coffee field. Note the branch full of unripe beans in the foreground.

    This particular plantation is small.  They only sell to the US via internet sales.  The major coffee brands in the US only buy from large plantations.  I tried a cup of the light roast at the end of the tour.  I still don’t like coffee, but the Don Juan light roast was less terrible than other coffee I have tried.

    Our guide showing us how the beans are sun dried for maximum flavor

    Our guide showing us how the beans are sun dried for maximum flavor

    The next step of the tour was showing how sugar cane is pressed to create a sugary water.  This sugary water can then be processed into sugar.  In this part of the country, most of the sugar cane is processed into rum.

    Our guide showing us what cacao looks like before processing

    Our guide showing us what cacao looks like before processing

    By far the most interesting portion of the tour was the discussion of cacao.  The cacao pod was surprising.  When our guide cut the pod open, what came out looked like meat.  Tom commented that if he had seen this before ever seeing chocolate, he might not have ever eaten chocolate.  The meat-like stuff you can see in the picture is peeled and processed into the cacao nut.  This nut is then roasted.  The nut is often then processed to separate the cacao powder from the butter.  The butter is used in cosmetics, generally.  The powder is then used to make chocolate.  Our guide talked about how you have to look at the label to make sure that the chocolate has a lot of cacao in it and is not adulterated with “chocolate flavors” and other additives.  Apparently the pure cacao has many health benefits.  the good stuff is 90 something percent cacao with a little of the cacao butter added back.

    Our guide gave a terrific presentation on how cacao becomes chocolate and let us sample chocolate the way it was consumed by aztecs.

    Our guide gave a terrific presentation on how cacao becomes chocolate and let us sample chocolate the way it was consumed by Aztecs.

    She mixed the cacao a few different ways for us.  The Aztecs thought this was the food of the gods.  Sugar cane and coffee are not indigenous to this part of the world, so the Aztecs did not mix the cacao with sugar.  They mixed it with chili powder and perhaps cinnamon.  This mixture was then stirred into hot water.  Because the pure cacao has a number of health benefits, the Aztecs felt stronger and satisfied.  We tried it this way.  It was really good!  Then she mixed in a little brown sugar from their sugar cane, and this mixture was terrific.  During this portion of the tour, she showed us a number of ways that the cacao is processed and used.  I found this portion of the tour the most interesting — plus, we got to sample stuff!

    Riding an ox cart that would have been used to transport coffee in the old days

    Riding an ox cart that would have been used to transport coffee in the old days

    After the tour was over, we rode in a traditional Costa Rican ox cart back to the mandatory gift shop.  The ox cart, originally from Europe, probably Italy, holds a special place in Costa Rican culture.  It was the first major transportation system that brought coffee from the mountains to the coast.  Costa Rica was exporting coffee before it was an independent country.  Each cart is individually painted and is a work of art in its own way.

     

    A ficus tree in the forest near our cabins

    A ficus tree in the forest near our cabins

    Following the coffee tour, we set out on a hike along a trail on the grounds of our cabins.  The Cabinas Capulin is also a working farm, so along the trail there were some parts of the farm to view.

    Sam demonstrated her lack of balance during our hike

    Sam demonstrated her lack of balance during our hike

    It has rained every afternoon since our arrival, so the ground was slippery.  Sam’s stumbling and near falls were very funny.

    We found this sign very funny. Is this tomato divided by chicken? Tomato or chicken? Why can't they tell the difference between a tomato and a chicken?

    We found this sign very funny. Is this tomato divided by chicken? Tomato or chicken? Why can't they tell the difference between a tomato and a chicken?

    The trail was well marked.  We weren’t very quiet during our walk, so we didn’t see any wildlife.  There was one point where we heard a lot of birds in a distant tree being quite loud, but we never saw the birds.

    Cows on the working far owned by the folks who run our cabins

    Cows on the working farm owned by the folks who run our cabins

    A swing at a scenic overlook during our hike

    A swing at a scenic overlook during our hike

    There seem to be very few flying, biting insects in this area.  We were wandering through the cloud forest without applying any bug repellant, and we were never bothered by mosquitos, flies, or other insects.

    Grilled cheese in our cabin for a relaxing lunch

    Grilled cheese in our cabin for a relaxing lunch while watching a movie

    Upon our return from our hike, Tom and I played with the frisbee for an hour, and then I made grilled cheese sandwiches on the hot plate in our cabin.  We then spent a relaxing afternoon reading and taking a siesta in our cabins.

    This was the only afternoon / evening since we arrived without torrential rain.  We took advantage of this clear weather to book a night nature walk through the forest with a guide.  Armed with flashlights, we ventured into the forest.  We saw a sloth, some snakes, a few sleeping birds, and some interesting nocturnal insects.  It was a little pricey for what we saw, but it was worth doing once.

    If you look closely, you can see the back of a sloth preening himself.

    If you look closely, you can see the back of a sloth preening himself.

    We returned to our cabin to snack on some popcorn and relax before bed.

     

     

    Costa Rica, 11 June

    Posted By on June 12, 2016

    Sammy really enjoyed the zip lines

    Sammy really enjoyed the zip lines

    After a terrific breakfast at our cabins, Orlando met us and took us to the Selvatura Cloud Forest park, where we began a zip line tour over the cloud forest.  Where we were in Monte Verde, Costa Rica, looks a little like a tropical rain forest, but in fact a cloud forest is different.  Where rain forests get torrential rains, most of the rain runs off and moves into tributaries of rivers.  A cloud forrest doesn’t have as much rain.  Most of the moisture comes from clouds that are pushed inland by ocean winds.  This means that the moisture comes in the form of condensation that runs off leaves and soaks into the ground.  The Selvatura park features a number of really long zip lines, the final one measuring a full kilometer.  At points we were hundreds of feet above the canopy, passing over and among terrific scenery.

    Ready for our zip line tour of the cloud forrest

    Ready for our zip line tour of the cloud forest

    Soon after our arrival we were suited up and ready to go.  We had to take a short shuttle ride from the reception area to the first tower. After a short instruction session, we were on our way.  The first zip was short, but the next one was almost a kilometer.

    Samantha makes it look easy.

    Samantha makes it look easy.

    Tom enjoyed the ride.

    Tom enjoyed the ride.

    Candy barely had enough weight to create enough momentum to get her to the platform at the end.

    Candy barely had enough weight to create enough momentum to get her to the platform at the end.

    What a handsome devil. Candy is SO lucky.

    What a handsome devil. Candy is SO lucky.

    After completing the zip line tour, we then hiked along the couple miles of trails through the Selvatura Park, which is sort of a privately held nature preserve.  Tom wanted to see a “big cat.”  Sam wanted to see a sloth.  Candy wanted to see a monkey.  I wanted to see a toucan.

    One of several pedestrian suspension bridges in the Selvatura Park

    One of several pedestrian suspension bridges in the Selvatura Park

    I’m not exactly sure how long the nature trail was, but it took us nearly two hours to walk it, stopping from time to time to try to spot some wildlife.  There were several pedestrian foot bridges along the trail that gave us a chance to look at the forest from the middle and top of the canopy as well as walking from bridge to bridge along the ground level.

    Another view of one of the bridges

    Another view of one of the bridges

    Looking up into the cloud forrest canopy

    Looking up into the cloud forest canopy

    Looking down into the cloud forest from one of the bridges

    Looking down into the cloud forest from one of the bridges

    Sam, enjoying the view

    Sam, enjoying the view

    One tree grew around another tree

    One tree grew around another tree

    Sam and Candy ambling down the trail

    Sam and Candy ambling down the trail

    Two handsome dudes

    Two handsome dudes

    This picture gives you some sense of scale for the length of these suspension bridges through the cloud forest.

    We were just a few feet away from this ocelot

    We were just a few feet away from this ocelot

    The best way to find wildlife at a national park in the US is to watch where all the cars are parked by the side of the road.  Someone spots an animal and everyone else stops to see it too.  The same was true in the cloud forest.  We came around a curve in the trail and found a couple pointing into the trees.  It turned out to be an oncilla, which is somewhat smaller than an ocelot.  He eventually got tired of all of us staring at him, came out of his tree, and disappeared into the vegetation.  Tom was the only one who got to see what he wanted to see on the hike.

    Crossing the final suspension bridge

    Crossing the final suspension bridge

    As we finished the walking tour, we were getting hungry for lunch.  Orlando took us to a small Soda in town where we had yet another terrific meal.  We bought a few groceries to take back to our cabin as the afternoon rain began to fall.  We then spent the afternoon relaxing in our cabin.  We went to a nearby pizza joint for dinner, and then ended the day with some board games back in our cabin.

    Costa Rica, 8-11 June 2016

    Posted By on June 11, 2016

    Arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica

    Arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica

    Over the past 6 Summers we worked to get the kids to all 50 states in the US before Tommy went off to college.  We managed to complete that goal about a week before he reported into West Point for Beast Barracks.  We had thought about trying to go to England this Summer, but the cost of airfare just put England into the “too hard” box for this year.  To work around Sam’s Summer School and Tom’s military training, we decided to have two smaller vacations rather than one long one.  The first vacation of the year is a week in Costa Rica.

    Our first stop in Costa Rica for traditional Costa Rican food.

    Our first stop in Costa Rica for traditional Costa Rican food

    Normally Candy has spent months planning each of our family vacations, using TripAdvisor, Yelp, and other Internet sites as well as travel books from the library.  This year she did some basic research, but then we hired Orlando Vargas, a Costa Rica guide, to work out the details.  This was both liberating and stressful to Candy the Microplanner.  Orlando picked us up in the airport and began the four-hour drive over largely unimproved roads to La Fortuna.  Along the way we stopped at a small “Soda” for lunch.

    Typical Costa Rican fare

    Typical Costa Rican fare

    Most traditional Costa Rican meals include black beans and rice.  All of the food has been superb.  The drinks were fruit juices of different types.  Tom and I hand pineapple, Sam and Candy had something red.  Tom and I also tried the home-made hot chillies in large yellow-topped jar.

    The entrance to our hotel. You can see the Arenal Volcano in the background.

    The entrance to our hotel. You can see the Arenal Volcano in the background.

    The interior of your "supreme" room at Los Lagos

    The interior of your "supreme" room at Los Lagos

    We arrived at the Los Lagos resort just as the afternoon rain began to fall.  We checked in then went to the pool-side snack bar to get a light dinner to take to our rooms.  We weren’t very hungry after the huge lunch we ate.

    The view out the front door of our room at Los Lagos

    The view out the front door of our room at Los Lagos

    Candy posting in front of our room

    Candy posing in front of our room

    This first day was largely a travel day, but the second day was full of high adventure.  We began with a wonderful breakfast buffet at Los Lagos and then Orlando took us to Pure Trek, where we had scheduled an excursion in which we conducted four rappels down canyon walls and waterfalls.

    The reception area for PureTrek canyoning

    The reception area for PureTrek canyoning

    Our guide, Orlando, and Tommy in the parking lot of PureTrek

    Our guide, Orlando, and Tommy in the parking lot of PureTrek

    After signing a bunch of waivers, we boarded the PureTrek van to take us to the adventure area.  Most of the drive was along unimproved roads past houses and agricultural fields.

    After a short van ride to the transfer point, we boarded 4x4 trucks to take us to the first rappelling cliff

    After a short van ride to the transfer point, we boarded 4x4 trucks to take us to the first rappelling cliff

    I haven’t been rappelling in many years, and I was really looking forward to it.  Sam and Tom had both rappelled with scouts.  Tom had just finished air assault school, during which he rappelled from a helicopter.  Candy had never rappelled.  So we were a mixed bag.

    The 4x4 truck that took us to the rappelling area

    The 4x4 truck that took us to the rappelling area

    A quick safety class

    A quick safety class

    I got to be the first to rappel

    I got to be the first to rappel

    I volunteered to go first for the day.  I wanted to check the safety of the apparatus before Candy and the kids came down.  We all lived. One of the things I liked about these PureTrek guys is that they were safe, but they let you bound down the cliff instead of just walking.  It was an awesome experience.

    I really enjoyed being able to bound down the side of the cliff

    I really enjoyed being able to bound down the side of the cliff

    From this shot, you get a sense of scale.  The cliff for the first rappel was 145 feet.

    This is another shot to gives a sense of scale to the first rappel

    This is another shot to gives a sense of scale to the first rappel

    What a blast!

    What a blast!

    Ensuring that everyone gets wet

    Ensuring that everyone gets wet

    Everyone gets wet!

    Everyone gets wet!

    The guide at the bottom of the cliff, pulled the rope to stop our descent and then dragged us under the falling water to make sure that everyone gets wet.

    Sam's first rappel of the day

    Sam's first rappel of the day

    One of the guides decided that Candy need to look like a bug

    One of the guides decided that Candy need to look like a bug

    Candy's first rappel

    Candy's first rappel ever

    Down she goes!

    Down she goes!

    Tom: Rappelling is old hat now -- but fun nonetheless

    Tom: Rappelling is old hat now -- but fun nonetheless

    Sam completing her first rappel of the day

    Sam completing her first rappel of the day

    The next event was the monkey drop, in which you zip line to the middle of a crevasse and then rappel down to the ground below.

    The next event was the monkey drop, in which you zip line to the middle of a crevasse and then rappel down to the ground below.

    Now she's a pro!

    Now she's a pro!

    Posing for the camera

    Posing for the camera

    Our group for the rappelling excursion

    Our group for the rappelling excursion

    Our next stop for the day was to see the La Fortuna falls.  Getting there meant going down hundreds of stairs to the base of the falls and then back up again.

    Posing near the La Fortuna falls

    Posing near the La Fortuna falls

    At the base of the falls

    At the base of the falls

    What a swell group of dudes

    What a swell group of dudes and dudettes

    After the trek down the long set of stairs and back up from the falls, we stopped to have fresh coconut water from a roadside stand.

    After the trek down the long set of stairs and back up from the falls, we stopped to have fresh coconut water from a roadside stand.

    After leaving the La Fortuna falls area, Orlando took us to a local watering hole on the La Fortuna river.  Tom and Sam both had a chance to swing out and drop 30 feet into the pool.

    Tom leaping from a large rock into the water below

    Tom leaping from a large rock into the water below

    Sam playing Tarzan

    Sam playing Tarzan

    Tom plays Tarzan

    Tom plays Tarzan

    After all the adventure and hiking, we went back Los Lagos to relax a little before dinner.

    Candy going down the slide into the pool fed by the hot springs from the Arenal volcano

    Candy going down the slide into the pool fed by the hot springs from the Arenal volcano

    The resort had several pools, some “cold” and some fed by the volcanic hot springs.  They both had the fastest water slides I have ever experienced.  You could really shock yourself going from the cold pool to the hot pool and back.

    Candy relaxing by the pool

    Candy relaxing by the pool

    Just chillaxing in one of the hot pools

    Just chillaxing in one of the hot pools

    The Los Lagos also had a butterfly enclosure, some alligators, a frog enclosure, and an enclosure for leaf cutter ants.  We spent a few minutes walking through these areas before getting ready for dinner an at upscale steakhouse / soda.

    Walking around the hotel's butterfly (mariposa) enclosure

    Walking around the hotel's butterfly (mariposa) enclosure

    The next morning, after another hearty breakfast, we took a hike up a trail to an observation area for a better view of Arenal.

    Studly dudes!

    Studly dudes!

    Looking up at Arenal from the hotel reception area

    Looking up at Arenal from the hotel reception area

    Finding a pump print on the trail

    Finding a puma print on the trail

    The lookout on Arenal at the end of the hike

    The lookout on Arenal at the end of the hike

    After this hike we began a three hour drive over unimproved roads to Monte Verde.

    The "tourism van" in which Orlando has been shuttling us around

    The "tourism van" in which Orlando has been shuttling us around

    Can we come out and play?

    Can we come out and play?

    Upon arriving at Monte Verde we went to lunch at the Tree House restaurant.  A tree grows up through the middle of the restaurant.  It is a living tree and home to birds.

    Lunch at the Tree House restaurant

    Lunch at the Tree House restaurant

    Our cabin at Cabinas Capulin in Monte Verde

    Our cabin at Cabinas Capulin in Monte Verde

    After a terrific Italian dinner at a local restaurant in Monte Verde, we hit the sack early and got ready for the next day’s adventure.  Stay tuned!

    Star Ducks are Done

    Posted By on June 8, 2016

    Five Archive Miniatures Star Ducks

    Five Archive Miniatures Star Ducks

    Late last night before packing for a family vacation, I finished 36 of these Archive Miniatures Star Ducks.

    Star Ducks with Wargames Supply Dump weapons

    Star Ducks with Wargames Supply Dump weapons

    For a few of the ducks whose weapons were not well cast, I ordered some retro science fiction weapons from the Dirk Garrison line from Wargames Supply Dump.  I think these retro weapons look good on the Star Ducks.  I will treat these as some sort of crew-served weapons.

    26 Star Ducks

    26 Star Ducks on my painting table

    There were 36 ducks in total.  I made three ten-duck units, including a squad leader and assistant squad leader.  There are also six extra ducks that will be the platoon leader and some crew-served weapons.

    Sally 4th Terra Blocks Photo Booth

    Posted By on June 8, 2016

    My teenage daughter just finished assembling and painting this small terrain item from Sally 4th.  It is a photo booth like the ones seen at tourist attractions and shopping malls.  The kit is part of Sally 4th’s Terra Blocks line.  For £3.50, I think this was a great value.  The kit went together very easily without the need to consult any instructions.  The detailing is deeply engraved, which makes painting easy.  My daughter knocked this out from plastic bag to the condition you see in just a couple of hours.

    In this shot you can see the “curtain” pushed out of the way so that you can see the screen inside.  This will make a nice addition to our zombie shopping mall game.  I can see a zombie hiding in here and then jumping out to infect an unwary survivor.

    Painting Figures in Black and White

    Posted By on June 7, 2016

    Pulp Figures painted in grays

    Pulp Figures painted in grays

    There was a recent post on TMP about whether people have experimented with painting figures in other than color.  That reminded me of these figures I painted some years ago.  At the time, I had grand plans of doing a whole game in black and white except for the camera crew to give the game that old movie look.  I was even going to make the scenery as flats like on a movie set.  These five figures are as far as I got.